Ghana’s Black Stars are back in the news after progressing to the final round of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers following their narrow win against South Africa at the Cape Coast stadium on Sunday. South Africa’s Bafana Bafana needed a draw to reach the final round of African qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, but the Black Stars won with a “controversial” penalty.
South African officials say their team have been robbed and so will be making a formal complaint about what they describe as “questionable decisions” made by match officials in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat.
Ghana’s Black Stars have over the years remained one of the most iconic national teams in Africa. The Black Stars team have been the West African country’s senior national male football team since the 1950s. And even though the team did not make it to the recent World Cup, the Black Stars did not do badly at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup.
In fact, at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Ghana at the quarter-finals stood as the sole African country remaining in the tournament after South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon had bowed out in the stages before. And apart from chalking successes and producing some of the best players, Ghana also have one of the most memorable nicknames in football in the African continent — the Black Stars.
So how did the Black Stars of Ghana get their name?
The name ‘Black Stars’ is inspired by Marcus Garvey’s shipping line of the same name established in 1919. Garvey is famed for being Jamaica’s first national hero who advocated for Black nationalism in Jamaica and particularly in the United States. In 1914, he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica, which protested against racial discrimination and encouraged self-government for black people all over the world.
He also founded the Black Star Line, a shipping and passenger line which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands. The all-Black steamship company was launched in 1919 to rival the luxurious White Star Line, whose flagship was the Titanic.
The Black Star Line ships were often used to transport people and “make largely symbolic port visits to cities in Latin America in celebration of black self-determination, business ownership, and economic potential,” according to BlackPast. The ships did visit various ports in Jamaica, Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica and other countries but no ship from the company ever reached Africa, according to BlackPast.
Garvey while in the U.S. preached his doctrine of freedom to the Blacks who were being oppressed but his actions did not go down well with U.S. officials and also with some Black leaders and intellectuals at the time, resulting in disagreements over how racial equality should be pursued.
Some Black leaders including W.E.B Dubois started an active campaign aimed at getting Garvey out. By then, Garvey’s life had been met with controversies, and this largely had to do with his Black Star Line. And even though the Black Star Line eventually folded thanks to issues with stock sales and mismanagement as well as interference by U.S. officials, the Black Star Line epitomized Garvey’s philosophy of Black self-sufficiency and pan-African unity.
Indeed, Garvey’s ideas influenced African independence movements of the twentieth century such that when Ghana became independent, it adopted a flag that featured a black star, recalling not only Garvey’s pan-Africanism and unity but also his Black Star Line.
It’s the same with Ghana’s footballers and even their national kit. Anytime they play or wear the national kit, they are representing African pride and Black self-sufficiency, equality, freedom and justice.